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History Lessons: Pet Health Insurance

By Colleen Williams
published: May 23, 2018 - updated: March 22, 2022 • 2 min. read
pet insurance

Surprise! Pet health insurance is over 100 years old. The first policy was written in 1890 by Claes Virgin, founder of Länsförsäkrings Alliance, a Swedish insurance company still around today. The original policies extended to horses and livestock; and by 1947, the first pet insurance policy was sold in Britain. By 2009, Britain had the second highest level of pet insurance in the world (Wikipedia cites 23%), behind only Sweden.

Pet Insurance in the US

Founded in 2007, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) is a group that collectively represents more than 20 different pet insurance brands currently marketed across the US and Canada. They report that of the 179 million pets in North America, over 1.6 million pets insured by NAPHIA members. That’s roughly 9% of North Americans cats and dogs are covered by pet insurance. And guess who the first in the US was to be enrolled? In 1982, famous television hero-pup Lassie!

Pet Insurance Timeline

Special milestones include the following, courtesy of NAPHIA:

  • 1890– The first pet insurance policy is written by Claes Virgin, founder of Länsförsäkrings Alliance.
  • 1924– The first dog receives insurance coverage in Sweden.
  • 1947 – Britain starts issuing pet insurance policies.
  • 1980 – Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) was the first company to offer pet health insurance in North America (Nationwide was VPI’s underwriter since it was founded and acquires the company outright in 2009).
  • 1982– Lassie receives the first pet insurance policy in the United States, issued by Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI).
  • 1989– Pet health insurance is introduced to Canada by Petplan, MediPet and Petsure.
  • 2007– The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) is founded to establish and maintain standards for the pet health insurance industry.
  • 2010 – Healthy Paws Pet Insurance enrolled its first pet in February 2010.
  • 2014 – Dr. Jack Stephens, founder and president of PetsBest Insurance and the man credited with starting pet insurance in North America, retires.

Want to know more about how pet insurance works? Healthy Paws can help you save up to 90% on your vet bills – great news for pet parents who love their pets like family but wouldn’t be able to afford some of the major treatments out there today, should the worst happen. Check out Is Pet Insurance Worth It? before reading through our dog and cat insurance. Then, enter your pet’s details for a free quote.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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